How to create a pollinator garden for National Honey Bee Day

Updated Aug 16, 2019
Photo: USDA/FlickrPhoto: USDA/Flickr

Tomorrow is National Honey Bee Day and will serve as an opportunity to educate the public about the environmental concerns facing honeybees.

Although pesticides often get blamed the most for the honeybee population’s decline, there are a number of factors including varroa mites, lack of forage and habitat that are affecting bees as well.

The day was officially created in 2010 by the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States and has the mission of promoting and advancing beekeeping, educating the public about honeybees and making them aware of the environmental threats they face.

Bayer’s Feed a Bee initiative will be celebrating the day with special planting events to add pollinator gardens to Bethpage State Park in Farmingdale, New York, North Central College in Naperville, Illinois, and the Placer Land Trust’s School Park Community Garden in Auburn, California.

At Bethpage State Park, horticulturists will expand pollinator habitat by connecting four existing pollinator gardens. Volunteers at North Central College will expand a newly restored prairie with native wildflowers and locals will expand School Park Community Garden’s current pollinator habitat.

“This Feed a Bee grant will help us create a garden space that was originally visualized by two incredible women who have since passed away,” said Katy Fries, garden manager of Auburn’s School Park Community Garden. “With this funding, we hope to enhance the natural beauty of the garden and safeguard foraging areas for our pollinators.”

The $500,000 initiative is sponsored by the Bayer Bee Care Program and has the goal of adding forage plantings or enhancements in every state by the end of 2018. Numerous groups have applied for funding to date and the three locations aforementioned are of the 58 projects that have been selected for funding so far.

“These organizations are only three of the incredible grantees that have received funding from the Feed a Bee program this year,” said Becky Langer, project manager, Bayer North American Bee Care Program. “It’s exciting to see such overwhelming support for pollinators from both large and small organizations across the country. We’re delighted to join with these diverse groups to have a direct, positive impact on local pollinators and their communities at large, and we’ve already made incredible progress to in our goal to reach all 50 states by the end of next year.”

The grant funds are awarded to organizations that are working to combat the issues of limited pollinator forage and provide a sustainable solution to the problem.

If your clients are interested in creating a bee-friendly landscape on their own property, there are several elements it must contain. Bees need food, so having multiple pollen- and nectar-producing flowers for every season can help them out greatly.

Some bee-friendly plants include asters, beebalm, Joe Pye weed, crocus, tickseed, oregano, zinnias, snapdragons, sunflowers, foxglove, goldenrod, phlox and milkweed.

It is better to select single flower tops like daisies instead of double flower tops like double impatiens as these produce less nectar and are harder for bees to access pollen. Also avoid highly hybridized plants as some have been bred not to seed and will produce very little pollen.

When planting pollinator-friendly plants, focus on sunny spots and try to grow large patches of flowers at least 3 feet by 3 feet. Bees also need access to water and bee baths provide them safe places to land without crashing.

A shallow bowl or a plate with rocks with just enough water so the tops of the rocks are not submerged will be enough. The water will need to be changed daily.

It is also a good rule of thumb to limit or eliminate the use of pesticides as they can weaken or kill the bees.

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